A Culinary Journey into Middle Earth

the-hobbit-moutains-wallpapers_31953_1920x1080December is and always will be the month of Middle Earth. For over ten years now, my winter breaks have been marked by regular cinematic ventures into the world of The Lord of the Rings. Between each installment of the LOTR trilogy, Decembers were when my family and I would sit down and discover the extended editions of the films and all the accompanying appendices. Each December since, I’ve made it a tradition to watch all three extended editions over the course of the month, often in one long weekend. Of course, this December was extra special with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The weekend after I went to see The Hobbit in Regal Cinema’s RPX RealD 3D HFR (all the bells and whistles save for IMAX), I sat down at home (with my much more modest screening system) to continue the story where it picks up 60 years later. Of course, I needed some fuel for the journey. With a kitchen stocked with Trader Joe’s items and a little imagination, my menu was set.

photo 1Breakfast

Potatoes and onions from the Greenhand farm in The Shire and the freshest eggs to be found-scrambled-which were traded for a heaping pile of mint. The egg dish was served alongside fried bread with a modest amount of butter spread over its crisp surface and a fresh pot of apple tea, a black tea that was just the thing on a cold December morning.


photo 1-1Second Breakfast

A quiche made with spinach and Bamfurlong mushrooms packed quite nicely. The mushrooms, I’ll have you know, were acquired quite rightfully from Farmer Maggot in the Eastfarthing. The grain for the bread from the Sandyman mill right in Hobbiton. Another cup of apple tea made with boiled water from a mountain stream accompanied.


photo 2Afternoon Tea

Crisps, nuts, and waxed cheeses for ease of individual consumption when traveling-though I admit to eating all three in one sitting. The cheese and the butter for the crisps were both, of course, from Tolman Cotton’s farm and the nuts-a rare delicacy in The Shire-were imported via a series of trades originating with the Easterlings. A third cup of apple tea-why not?


photo 4The Evening Hours

During this first day’s journey into Middle Earth-the two subsequent days featured somewhat more modern fare-the remnants of afternoon tea largely satisfied my appetite. I did have a few sweets-caramelized sugar pressed between two thin biscuits-but what really hit the spot for me was hot spiced mead, which I drank out of my grandmother’s clay goblets. Amber in color, richly floral in scent, with just the slightest bite for that little pick-me-up.


photo 3Of all the things I had this day, the warm mead was that delight that felt most like coming home. While I had intended to make mulled wine with a variety of spices-cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, and star anise-I stumbled across Chaucer’s Mead in the wine section of Trader Joe’s: “Elegant wine made from 100% pure honey” which came with its own packet of spices. With a $10.99 price tag, it was an indulgence worth taking.

I imagine The Green Dragon and The Prancing Pony serving something just like this elixir…by the pint.

You Could Make it Plainer

No, we’re not odd, its true
No fam’ly could be saner
Except one uncle who…well, maybe let that pass
In all you say or do
You couldn’t make it plainer
You are your mother’s daughter; therefore you are class

-Maurice in “No Matter What” from the Beauty and the Beast, the Broadway musical

I understand the impetus to write new songs for musicals based on animated films. Sometimes it’s necessary to expand the singing portion of the production. At other times it’s in order to solve an issue posed by the dramatic structure.

For this song, the creative conversation probably involved the desire to not only give Maurice a song, but to solidify his emotional connection with his daughter before they are separated. However, the song feels like it delays the plot rather than advances it. In addition, the film dialogue it replaces is remarkable for its casual tone. It’s a conversation that could have happened any day. Belle encourages her father by saying she’s always believed he’ll “become a world famous inventor” and Maurice expresses his love for his daughter telling her not to worry about not having someone else she can talk to because “this invention’s going to be the start of a new life for us.”

By making the characters literally profess their sanity, “No Matter What” has the effect of protesting too much. Exploring each other’s eccentricities isn’t the point of the scene, rather it is to present their unconditional love for one another. For this father and daughter to conjure the issue of social acceptance into song here seems unnecessary given the clarity and strength of their relationship which could be conveyed in a much better way as evidenced by the film. If this dynamic was in question, then perhaps the song would be more appropriate since the intended effect of song in a musical is to give voice to that which cannot be spoken. Instead, “No Matter What” draws attention to insecurities that are likely not so deeply rooted as to merit a melody.

Mostly, I just wanted to say that last line isn’t likely to catch on as an affirming adage for young women.

Film Viewings 2011

As I went to compile this list of films I saw in 2011-my fourth annual since Kj helped inspire me to start in 2008 (Click through for 2009 and 2010)-I looked back on last year’s post which began with “This year marked a dramatic decrease in the number of movies I screened compared to last year.” I fully expected this year to continue the downward trend, but I actually saw nine, yes, a whole nine more films in 2011 than in 2010.

“Do I not like going to the movies anymore?” I’ve often asked myself. I still do, certainly, but my qualifications for going have perhaps become more rigid: right time, right people, right movie. Also: Oh, to not have class or a thesis to write.

I still relish my Seattle days when I could walk to two major movie theaters within five minutes. That said, there’s a part of me that also misses being able to hop on the A train down to Times Square and see a Broadway show for $35 (or better, free) as a student. Now? At the moment, I live in suburbia, not quite as fulfilling in terms of entertainment options. Most of the movies I see, I do so from the comfort of my bedroom.

Will this change in 2012? Probably not, because…as of next week, I will be graduating to my first HDTV and Blu-ray player. Will it be world changing? Probably.

Disclaimer: The list you see before you and the “awards” reflect only those films that I have seen, different from your list and those of critics.

Total Films Watched in 2011: 75 (Note: the last film I watched in 2010 is the same final film I watched in 2011-TRON: Legacy-the first year in the theater and the second at home.)

Average per Week: 1.44

Films Seen in Theatres: 10

Most Frequent Cinema Companion: Kj (4 movies)

Film Watched Twice: Sleeping Beauty 

Top Films of 2011 (New/In Order of Viewing):
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
X-Men: First Class
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Most Disappointing Films of 2011:*
Cars 2
Attack the Block

*Disappointing because of heightened (or even in the case of Cars 2, lowered) expectations or the typical quality of the talent involved in each production.

Viewings 2011
*denotes theatrical viewing

Mars Attacks!
The Muppet Movie
The Great Muppet Caper
The Tempest*
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
How to Train Your Dragon
Beauty and the Beast
High School Musical
Sleeping Beauty
High School Musical 2
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
17 Again
Dune (1984)
The Lion King
Song of the South
The Social Network
Peter Pan (1953)
Peter Pan (2003)
Through a Glass Darkly
Sleeping Beauty
Gnomeo & Juliet*
127 Hours
The Three Caballeros
Walt: The Man Behind the Myth
Jaws 2
Jaws 3-D
Jaws: The Revenge
Resident Evil: Afterlife
Edward Scissorhands
Sherlock Holmes
Treasure Planet
The Blind Side
Hot Tub Time Machine
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The King’s Speech
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The Pixar Story
Toy Story 2
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Black Cauldron
The Phantom Tollbooth
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2*
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Father of the Bride Part II
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
X-Men: First Class
The Addams Family
Addams Family Values
Captain America
Cars 2
Winnie the Pooh (2011)
Attack the Block
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Super 8
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows*
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn*
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol*
TRON: Legacy

News: Coffee, Seattle International Film Festival, Star Tours, Rapture, Universal Studios

• You can go back to not feeling guilty about drinking coffee. People may actually live longer by consuming it.

• I always think my coffee tastes better with latte art. Fremont Coffee Company in Seattle has a photo series of these incredibly detailed and drinkable works of art on their Flickr page. Thanks to my friends at Unicorn Booty for the link.

• Also in Seattle, the 37th annual Seattle International Film Festival kicks off tonight with an Opening Night Gala at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Sadly, this is now the second year in a row that I haven’t been able to go! It was definitely a highlight of each year I lived in Seattle. If you go, make sure to share your favorite films! SIFF runs May 19-June 12.

• If you haven’t heard, the Rapture is on Saturday. That is, if you believe 89 year old Harold Camping who also predicted the Rapture would occur September 1994. It didn’t happen. The Huffington Post has a few more facts about the man and a video of the man responding to claims of false prophecy. You could click the link or shrug the whole thing off and use it as an excuse to go to one of the many “Rapture Parties” taking place Friday night.

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue officially opens tomorrow at Walt Disney World’s Disney Hollywood Studios after almost a week of soft openings. In honor of the event, Entertainment Geekly posted a video of the original 1987 Star Tours attraction. The attraction will open in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland June 3rd along with The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

• Can you tell where all these hidden Mickeys are at the Disneyland Resort?

• This morning Universal Orlando Resort announced a brand new attraction based on Despicable Me will take the place of the Jimmy Neutron attraction near the gate of Universal Studios Orlando. During the same live webcast, Universal Creative’s Thierry Coup confirmed that the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction at the resort’s second gate, Islands of Adventure, would be receiving an upgrade to its 3D projections including high definition and new animation. Here’s the official video announcement of both planned additions to the parks:

News: Pirates, Disneyland, SNL, RSS, Mother’s Day, The Guild

• Yesterday Disneyland hosted the premiere for the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, On Stranger Tides. The screening took place in a huge amphitheater constructed especially for the event bridging the Rivers of America. Over 22,000 people were expected to attend some of whom paid $1,000 per ticket. Proceeds benefitted the Boys and Girls Club of America for which Walt Disney was a great advocate. Check out what into preparing for this massive event via the LA Times.

• A great collection of 45 vintage photographs from Disneyland created the old fashioned way entirely sans use of Instagram.

• Marvel’s Thor hit the U.S. market Friday after being released internationally the previous week. In just 11 days the film has grossed $242 million worldwide.

• Does this signal the imminent death of RSS?

• ELEVEN is officially the last project I have going on in New York before I make the cross-country move to the Los Angeles area next week. With performances happening Thursday, May 12th and Friday, May 13th at 8:00 PM near Columbia University, ELEVEN is a theatrical event featuring eleven short plays tied to specific moments and places in one imagined night in a vaudeville house.

• Tina Fey returned as a host on Saturday Night Live yesterday and brought along her renowned Sarah Palin impression.

• Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S. along with many other countries, but did you know that the date for Mother’s Day ranges from mid-February to December across the world?

• For the occasion, New York theater journalist Jonathan Mandell took a survey of the various mother figures currently represented on Broadway including Donna in Mamma Mia, Morticia in The Addams Family, and Mrs. Wilkinson in Billy Elliot.

• Both Tom Lenk and Eliza Dushku—two Joss Whedon vets—are on the set of Felicia Day’s web series, The Guild today.


News: Star Tours, Transformers, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Dorian Gray, Twitter

• Disneyland has begun holding Cast Member previews for the revamped Star Tours attraction and the word is good! While Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, along with The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, officially opens June 3rd, I would expect from past experience that there will be soft openings for the general public happening within a couple weeks of the “launch” date. Here’s the press release which mentions the attraction’s 50 possible story combinations. Above image is from the original version of the attraction.

Theme Park Insider has new concept art from the Transformers dark ride at Universal Studios Singapore, a copy of which will open at Universal Studios Hollywood next year. Several of the images reveal a heavily themed queue.

• A new trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon was released on Thursday and is surprisingly appealing. The action seems to have a lot more clarity than the previous films—especially the second—let’s hope the same goes for the plot.

• The Daily Beast takes a look at the “8 Best Pilot Scripts of 2011” which includes the noir-esque CBS thriller Ringer starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as a pair of twins, one of whom assumes the other’s identity when she dies.

• One of my favorite novels, The Picture of Dorian Gray has been rereleased as The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition restoring much of Oscar Wilde’s original text. Adding to the appeal of this edition is its use of Caravaggio’s painting, Narcissus, as its cover.

• If the data plan cap on the iPhone wasn’t enough for you, beginning today, AT&T will cap data usage for its DSL customers at 150GB per month. Don’t worry, that’s still a lot of tweets.

• How do you send your tweets? If you use Tweetdeck, you’ll now be using an official Twitter product since Twitter just acquired the program from UberMedia for $40 million–$50 million.

Mars Hill Graduate School, a Seattle school of which many of my friends are alumni, will be renamed The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology.

• Happy 30th Anniversary, Mom & Dad!

News: Times Square, Avengers, Little Mermaid, Ryan Phillippe, Cars

• Over the past few days Times Square has been a busy place for Hollywood as two high file film shoots occurred. First, Chris Evans and Samuel L. Jackson were spotted filming new scenes for Captain America on Saturday. Today, Glee took to the steps over the TKTS booth at the north end of Times Square for a song and dance routine. Elsewhere in New York, prep work is underway on the upper West side of Manhattan for The Amazing Spider-Man.

• In other superhero news, Joss Whedon announced that his current directorial project, The Avengers, would begin filming today.

• Joss Whedon fans should also appreciate today’s featured t-shirt on TeeFury.

• Now for something a little more fancy. The official Disney Parks Blog just released images of Ariel’s wedding dress from the upcoming Little Mermaid attraction at Disney California Adventure both in honor of the British nuptials taking place Friday and the attraction’s opening June 3rd. Costume designer for The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, Gloria Bowls says that Ariel’s wedding dress in the 1989 film was “largely influenced by the royal wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981.”

• Ryan Phillippe, 36, who I will always associate with his role in Cruel Intentions has decided to quit acting and move to New York where he has been looking at residences in SoHo.

• The New York International Auto Show began Friday at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan and runs through May 1st. Thanks to the social media team at Ford, I was able to get a sneak peek at the show floor before it opened and snapped a few pictures of the more colorful new automobiles this year. Bumblebee stood tall for Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon and Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 was represented by Lightning McQueen, Mater and a character new to the franchise Finn McMissile voiced by Michael Caine.